Editor's Note: QA staff are on the ground in Pittsburgh for this year's IAFP 2022. Follow us on Twitter for live updates.
PITTSBURGH, Pa. — Day 2, the first full day of sessions at IAFP 2022, kicked off with morning sessions that included one on hygienic design of food processing facilities and equipment.
At the session Food Safety by Design, Dimitri Tavernarakis of Mondelez International talked about the inherent cost savings that come from businesses investing in hygienic design, including better productivity and efficiency on the facility floor and equipment reliability.
“Complacency is not OK when it comes to food safety,” Gale Prince, SAGE Food Safety Consultants, said at the session.
After lunch, Frank Yiannas, deputy commissioner for food policy and response, Food & Drug Administration (FDA), and Sanra Eskin, deputy under secretary for food safety, Department of Agriculture (USDA), gave attendees an update of what their agencies are up to.
The update, an annual event, kicked off with info from Eskin that USDA was announcing action to declare Salmonella an adulterant in breaded and stuffed raw chicken products.
These include products typically sold in a grocery freezer section stuffed with meat, cheese or a vegetable component, such as frozen chicken cordon bleu.
Since 1998, FSIS and public health partners have investigated 14 salmonella outbreaks potentially associated with these products, which Eskin said often appear to be cooked, but are in fact raw.
“We have consistently failed to meet our public health goals for reducing salmonella infections, so it’s time for a change,” she said.
Eskin said FSIS is developing a comprehensive strategy that will focus on salmonella controls as chickens enter slaughter and processing establishments.
Following Eskin, Yiannas used his time to talk about the future of the food industry and some of the challenges it faces.
“These are challenging times in our nation and the world as the food system faces unprecedented challenges," he said. "But with challenges come opportunities.”
Citing new food products and methods of delivery, Yiannas said there's a food revolution going on, but there's room for food safety to improve through things such as data collection and sharing.
“Imagine a future in which all the info we need about food is at our fingertips,” Yiannas said.
In a moment that got an uneasy chuckle from the crowd, Yiannas somewhat rhetorically asked the audience: “Are we wining the battle against foodborne disease?”
To which Eskin, who was still on stage from the proceeding Q&A session, chimed in: "Not really."
During the Q&A session, an audience member asked Yiannas about a plan for providing better, more clear safe food handling instructions to consumers.
“It has to be more than a label," Yiannas said. "Consumers don’t pay attention to labels too much. It has to go much further."
Another question, in response to Yiannas' mention of the need for better data, someone in the crowd asked how agencies can influence tech to get involved in food safety when it comes to data?”
“You name the tech firm, I’m having conversations with them,” Yiannas said in an interesting tease.
Afternoon sessions included a discussion on using consumer research to inform labeling policy for food products. Speakers such as Aaron Lavallee, USDA – FSIS, Lisa A. Shelley, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, N.C., and Donna M. Garren, American Frozen Food Institute, Woodbridge, Va., talked about how consumers interact with labels, and how that can help industry and agencies make them better.
Lavallee, in a Do you remember when? moment, shared a photo of his pager to illustrate a larger point about communicating effectively.
"We've just changed how we communicate [since the time of pagers]," he said. "There hasn't been a point in history where we've had more information at our fingertips. So how do you break through that?"
At the session Where the Wild Things Are: Foraging for Fungi Food Safety, Laura Gieraltowski of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined recent multi-state outbreaks related to fresh or dried mushrooms, including a listeria outbreak in 2017-18.
Dr. Florence Wu of Aemtek discussed the popularity of foraging and the specialty mushroom industry. Mushroom poisoning causes nearly 1,400 emergency hospital visits every year in the U.S., Wu said. Poisonous mushrooms remind her of a Taylor Swift lyric, she quipped: “Darling, I’m a nightmare dressed as a daydream.”
“There are old mushroom hunters and there are bold mushroom hunters, but there are no old and bold mushroom hunters,” Wu added.
During the session Hold the Phone! The Role of Celebrity Chefs and Influencers in Food Safety Messaging, a roundtable weighed the pros and cons of food influencers going viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram from a food safety perspective. Nicole L. Arnold, a nutrition science professor at East Carolina University, gave the example of a new, concerning trend: submerging avocados in jars of water for months at a time in an attempt to preserve their shelf life. Cheetie Kumar, a chef in Raleigh, N.C., said seeing these trends is “like watching a car wreck.”
Ellen W. Evans of ZERO2FIVE Food Industry Centre said the issue with short-form reels on Instagram and TikTok is “there’s certainly no time for people to include information on food safety.”
Arnold added that food safety professionals have to be ready to take the heat if they call an influencer out online, both from the influencer and their devoted fan base.
“They are profiting off of misinformation, and they’re making a lot of money doing it,” Arnold said. “And we’re a threat to that.”
Speaking of TikTok trends intersecting with food safety, QA advisory board members and frequent contributor Darin Detwiler, stopped by the QA booth in the exhibit hall to talk about the Pink Sauce viral trend and more. Check out the full interview!